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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Now is the time for thrift with your food budget!

Let's explore how to feed our family on a tight budget for several reasons but foremost so we can have money to buy food for our family preparedness. I decided to write an article on the topic of thrift, stretching your food budget and also learning to cook the things we will have to be eating after an economic collapse or a disaster of any kind happens.

Let me tell you about SCRAP Soup or garbage soup or leftovers soup! This was such a thrill for me to see a gourmet restaraunt chef show this idea! Scrub all your vegetables for the next couple of meals that you plan to make and peel them into a bowl and throw into a soup pot when you finish you will have THE most delicious vegetable broth you have ever had! Here is an example;
I plan to have mashed turnips and potato with my supper tonight so I scrub the turnips and potatoes and then peel them both, saving all the peels to put into my stock pot. I also take the onion peels (not the real papery part though) and the outer cabbage leaves from that head of cabbage in my fridge and the peels from the carrots that also have been scrubbed as well as the ends. Cut off your leaves on your celery stalks and add them as well. I also add all the leftover vegetables in the fridge such as corn, string beans, peas, spinach, etc. Now the one thing you might not think of but is really good in broth is wilting lettuces (not slimy though) cucumber peels, eggplant peels etc. Cover with water, season with salt, pepper, garlic, or anything else that you love such as thyme, oregano, basil, etc. Simmer for 45 mins on medium low and then let steep for one hour. Strain through a strainer and then use as a base for soups, sauces, stews, gravy, etc. You can just add some noodles and you have a flavorful soup or add some dried mixed vegetables and a little meat and you have a delicious soup or with a little thickening, and tomato you have a stew. The ideas are endless try it yourself and see. You can keep some of your peels in a bag for a couple of days in the fridge. Potato peels should be fresh because they turn black after contact with air. Have fun with this.

When we buy a larger quantity than we need for the week then we can spread it over another week or two for a meal here and there. I will have some of the chicken I bought this week for $5.90 for 10 lbs. left over for the following week. If you are super thrifty you will de-bone some of your chicken and take some of the skin, bones, and a few drumsticks and boil them for awhile with some onion and salt and pepper and make a rich broth. Cool the broth and bones after removing the skin. Then remove the meat from your broth and set aside, then strain the broth and liquefied fat into a bowl and refrigerate. After the fat congeals scrape it off and put into another dish. Add your meat back to your broth and you have the basis for a delicious chicken soup. The fat should be kept covered and refrigerated. Use the fat to sauté your skinless boneless chicken in to add flavor and to give you a base for making gravy with your drippings and fat. It only takes flour and water added to it and simmered for 2 minutes to make a delicious gravy. Your chicken fat should last in the fridge for at least a week and if you can't use it all in a week you can freeze it. Remember, fat is required in your diet and yes I know meat fat has cholesteral but if you don't take advantage of the fresh fats that you can get you will be paying through the nose for containers of oils. You can use sparingly and your body should be able to handle it.

If you want to be thrifty with your ground beef there is something similar that can be done with a little different results and is a healthy way to eat beef. When you open your 5 lb. roll or package of ground beef, break it up and put into a Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper and finely chopped onion. Simmer with water to the top of the beef and cook until it loses its pink color. Strain the beef into a colander which is placed over another pot or bowl. Package your cooked ground beef into meal size portions such as a 3/4 cup for a spaghetti or chili dinner or for tacos or burritos. Freeze your portions until needed. Leave about 3/4 cup of beef to add back to the broth after you skim the fat from the cold broth. You can save this fat to be used later with your cooked ground beef if you want to brown it for use in burritos because the boiled beef isn't quite as good a texture as the browned beef is for dishes like this. The broth that has been skimmed and the 3/4 cup of ground beef and some more onion, carrots and any other vegetables you have on hand such as celery, beans, corn, herbs etc. and a can of some tomato product such as tomato paste, whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, puree, sauce or anything you have in the tomato range. I have even used catsup before to give the tomato flavor. This makes a delicious beef vegetable soup. You have stretched the ground beef to at least 7 meals out of that 5 lbs of ground beef. By the way if you have leftover ground beef from tacos or leftover spaghetti or chili you can add this to your soup to stretch your soup to 2 meals that will taste different from the first time you served it at the beginning of the week. You rename the soup to minestrone soup or Mexican soup. Everyone will think you made them a real treat!
Now let's talk about real thrift! Rice and beans! With preparedness such a hot topic because of our economy being so weak at the moment and so many people out of work and fears of the future with the price of food skyrocketing let's look at what we can prepare inexpensively and still eat well. You can buy Rice and Beans in bulk to make them the cheapest items in your food storage as far as being nutritionally dense for the money. My suggestion though is to buy some 1 lb. packages of a variety of beans to try lots of recipes with and find your families favorite varieties before investing in 25 or 50 lb. bags of beans. Most people love refried beans and the pinto bean is what they are usually made of and pinto's are a very versatile bean to use. They can be used in place of kidney beans in chili and added to soups and used for beans and rice. So I suggest if you like them in those things then buy them, not to discount the fact that they are one of the cheapest beans on the market and they come in bulk sizes in many stores such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, etc. The great thing you can do with beans is to soak and cook enough beans for a few meals at one time. It takes the same amount of energy to cook 1/2 lb of beans or 2 lbs. of beans. You can bag up your extra cooked beans to make refried beans or to just throw into your other meals for extra nutrition and cut back on the amount of meat you use in your dishes. My second suggestion is to take a look at the garbanzo beans which you can make delicious soups or add them to salads or even make a snack out of the cooked beans rinsed and then baked with seasoning to have like nuts. Also hummus is made from garbanzo's which is a great dip or sandwich spread. My third suggestion would be butter beans if you usually use limas or butter beans for side dishes or main dishes with rice then this is a really great bean to keep on hand. Growing up my Mother would could up a pot of butter beans with a little ham or bacon in it and serve it with corn bread and the second day she would add rice and make a casserole from the leftovers. I loved it as long as I had catsup to put on them. (Yes, I know, it is my little quirk for that particular bean.) I also like black beans to add to many dishes such as chili, stews, soups, and bean burgers. Bean burgers and lentil burgers are usually made from well done beans or lentils added to rice and an egg to make a passable burger. If you use the same condiments you do with a beef burger it is a really surprising treat. My husband didn't even realize until I told him that he ate a bean burger instead of a beef burger. You can add some bread crumbs to make it mold into a burger a little easier.

Thrifty ways to stretch your food includes your rice as well. Cook up a whole 1 lb. bag of rice at one time and then keep out what you need at that meal. Separate the rest into zipper bags to be used in other meals during the week. It will save you energy costs and make your meal preparations much quicker. You can serve your rice the first time with your sautéed chicken and gravy or you can make Spanish rice to serve with your burritos or to stretch your chili to serve more people if you have unexpected company. Rice can be fried with leftovers such as chicken or vegetables with a beaten egg added to make the oriental favorite fried rice by adding a few of those freebie soy sauce packets to give that flavor that is expected with fried rice. Curried Vegetables over rice is really a tasty and different meal. Why not play it up and make theme nights where you make one night Indian Curry night with curried garbanzo beans and vegetables over rice and the next night will be Mexican Fiesta night with refried bean burritos and Spanish rice. Then you have Cajun Country night with gumbo or red beans and rice (buy some of those Mardi Gras beads to share during the meal and then put away for the next time.) You can put on some Salsa Dance music to set the theme. Don't forget Salad night with your garden lettuces and tomatoes and throw on some kidney beans or garbanzo beans for your protein. A great way to serve beans in the summer. Another summer favorite is Three Bean Salad with green beans, wax beans and kidney beans dressed with a sweet and sour vinaigrette. Many casseroles have a rice base as well as salads and the old time favorite rice pudding.

Did you know that you can make Rice Milk very easily and that Rice milk can be used for almost anything that regular cow's milk can be used for? Powdered milk is quite pricy and you can stretch the powdered milk in your long term storage by making rice milk to use either on its own or mixed half and half with powdered cow's milk to cook with or to use on cereal or even to drink. Some people like the taste much better than powdered milk. There are YouTube videos and recipes online for Rice Milk. It is basically boiling your rice for about 3 hours and then pouring through cloth and squeezing out the liquid. You can add a couple tablespoons of oatmeal to the rice when cooking to thicken the milk and giving it more body, then you can add vanilla and a small amount of sugar to flavor it. You need to refrigerate rice milk just like regular milk so make a smaller amount to last for no more than a couple of days without refrigeration unless of course it is used in baking. Now just think, riceyou can get for less than $20 for 50 lbs. I wonder how much milk 50 lbs. of rice would make? I am sure it would be a lot. So if you find you can't afford to stock up on powdered milk consider stocking 50 or 100 lbs. of rice just for Rice Milk.

Beans, beans and more beans. That is one of the staples and basic foods that all survivalists and prepper's talk about. I know most people don't each much in the way of beans anymore but take a gander at the price of meat out there today and take a second look at the great protein at such an inexpensive price . For instance most beans will give you 15 grams of protein per cup of the lowly bean. Add a cup of rice and you have an additional 4 grams of protein. My meager ability at math figures that at 19 grams of complete protein, it is low fat, no cholesterol, easy to prepare, and can be used in many recipes to hide the fact that it is beans and rice. Not that there is anything wrong with beans and rice. But......what about gumbo, bean soup, Spanish rice with garbanzo beans, vegetarian chili over rice, bean burritos, refried beans and Spanish rice, bean curry and yellow rice, and umpteen other dishes that can be made with the lowly bean. Don't forget the variety of beans out there. Black beans, garbanzo beans, pink beans, field peas, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lima beans, black eyed peas, lentils, cranberry beans, split peas of yellow or green varieties, lentils of several colors, butter beans and great northern beans. There are more but these are the ones you can find in most grocery stores. All of these varieties are nutritious, delicious, and inexpensive compared to meat.

Beans can also be used as an oil substitute in many recipes. Don't forget that you can grind beans into a flour and stretch your wheat flour in making your breads as well as increasing the protein in your breads.

Since most people don't partake in a lot of beans let me give some hints on cooking dried beans.

Step 1 - Rinse and sort through your beans take out all pebbles and stems.

Step 2 - Soak your beans overnight in water. This shortens the cooking time and uses less power or wood or gas to cook them.

Step 3 - Drain your beans and rinse again. Place into fresh water with about an inch of water above beans. Do not salt your beans until step 5.

Step 4 - Cook for 1/2 hour and then drain and rinse again. Add 1 tsp. of baking soda and cook for another 1/2 hour then drain and rinse again.

Step 5 - Cook with fresh water with your seasonings and salt, meats if used and onion and vegetable if you need them for 1 more hour. You should have beans that will not give you much problem with gas or flatulence. After cooling you may separate your beans into separate zipper bags for different meals and refrigerate or freeze.

Do not do this cooking method with lentils or split peas because they don't take but about 45 minutes to cook through. Follow the cooking directions on the packaging or your recipe book for these.

PLEASE get your family used to eating meals with beans and rice on a fairly regular basis and find their favorite meals made with them NOW! Don't wait until the economy collapses and you can't buy meat anymore because of the price. I know most all preppers have a hundred or so pounds of beans and a couple of hundred pounds of rice. I also know that a lot of preppers have them packed in long term storage and they don't eat beans and rice hardly at all unless it comes from a package or can or a Mexican Restaurant and they don't really know how to make them taste good when cooking dried beans or maybe they don't even have a clue how to cook the long grain white rice they have stored. You may not have a rice steamer available to cook your rice. Learn now how to make rice with the 2 part water to 1 part rice and bring water to boil add rice and turn to low and cook for 20 minutes covered. If cooking over an open campfire pull the pot to the side of the coals or flame and turn your pot periodically to help cook more evenly.

Good eating and have fun trying out different recipes and theme nights. Get your family on board and used to eating the lowly wonderful bean and you will have a much easier transition after the stuff hits the fan!

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